11 October 2007 | ksandness
Racism in a different culture
Accustomed to seeing portrayals of racism against African-Americans or Native Americans, I was intrigued to see some of the same phenomena in an Australian context.
The central character, Trilby Comeaway, part of extended family of Aborigines living in a shanty settlement outside a rural town, is one angry young lady. Her anger is directed not only at the local whites, who are abusively racist at worst and patronizing at best, but against her own family, many of whom seem to have internalized the stereotypes and are living in an irresponsible manner, even after being given a house in a public housing tract.
Looked at one way, the film could be seen as a condemnation of Aboriginal culture, but what it is actually portraying is the vacuum created when people lose or are deprived of their ancestral culture but are unable, for whatever reason, to participate fully in the dominant culture.
The members of the Comeaway family have some admirable qualities, such as their generosity to their extended family, one of the few Aboriginal cultural traits that they have retained. However, having internalized the stereotype of the irresponsible, child-like Aborigine, they have trouble functioning effectively in white society.
The story takes a different turn when a young man engaged in the Aboriginal land rights movement shows up and, among other things, becomes Trilby's lover.
Trilby is not always a likable person. She has a huge chip on her shoulder, and she does one thing that is quite shocking. However, the film seems to be saying that it's the "uppity" people in a minority group who will escape the trap of sinking into the stereotypes.